Capability Insights Consulting



Technology's Role Part 3

Posted on May 25, 2010 at 12:32 PM

The previous two posts (Technology’s Role Part 1, Technology’s Role Part 2) have been exploring the role of technology in building process and people capability. This final post of this series looks at the role of technology in building leadership capability.


As with process and people capability, technology plays an enabling role. But that role is not as obvious and is fraught with more risk and is frankly harder to do well. Let me state upfront that technology enablers cannot make a bad leader good or a great leader significantly greater. Yet there is still some magic available when done well.


Improved measurement and decision making


Leaders must make decisions like the ones below:


  • product pricing decisions, product development decisions, product retirement decisions
  • sales target decisions
  • project investment and prioritization decisions
  • decisions on competitive strategies, business models, annual budgets
  • organizational design decisions
  • performance management decisions

A leader’s day is made up of a series of decisions whether they lead a fairly small business unit or an entire global organization.


I’d be the very last person to take a certain amount of intuition out of decision making, but decisions that are based on having good metrics and data, properly analyzed and balanced with qualitative factors are better and more consistent decisions. They are defendable and explainable which is a tremendous help when asking people to make changes.


Decision support systems through to complex business intelligence systems (BI systems) can help leaders make better and more consistent decisions. They can enable a leader to have exactly the relevant metrics and facts in front of them when needed. They can combine facts and trends and offer analysis far faster than us mere humans. They can weed out the data that is not relevant or not terribly important for certain decisions helping us be more focused in our decision making.


The risks are not in the systems or technology itself. In order to be effective as an enabler the technology needs:

  • the organization to have defined the kinds of decisions the leaders need to make
  • the organization to define the metrics and data it needs to capture to aid those decisions and to ensure that the business functions/processes actually capture this data for later use
  • the organization to define the kind of data analysis and trending to be done
  • the organization to equip the leaders with the skills needed to use the metrics, data and data analysis
  • and potentially more around building capability to ensure data integrity and to continually evolve data analysis as the organization evolves

Technology applied incorrectly here can actually make decision making worse, can have leaders buried in too much data and basing their decisions on the wrong information. Even when applied well it can result in leaders relying too heavily on the data and not balancing data with real-world observations of what is happening in their organization and with their customers.


In short the organization must embark on some thinking about decisions and decision-making processes in their organization before running down the technology implementation path. In this do and activity based culture we live in, thinking time is often considered a luxury!


Summary: Technology and Capability

Technology can and should be used to help build people, process and leadership capability. What matters is how it is applied. Technology is not, nor will it ever be, a silver bullet. Understanding what your organization needs; its goals, its employee skills, its strategies, its products, the decisions that need to be made etc is hard work! That hard work matched with effective use of technology will be rewarding. Anything less than stepping up to that hard work is like taking a cut flower, shoving it in dirt and hoping it takes root. On rare occasions it works, the vast majority of time it looks good for a short time then wilts and dies. Except that technology is typically a lot more expensive than a cut flower!




Categories: technology, leadership, business processes

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